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Futsal helps soccer players stay sharp during the winter

Thu., Jan. 2, 2014

You may not have heard of it, but kids in Spokane Valley are lining up to play it.

Futsal has been around since the 1930s. Invented in Brazil and Uruguay as a solution for a lack of soccer fields, it’s becoming a way to train for soccer during the winter months for many kids.

“It’s basically a version of indoor soccer,” said Cassi Atwood, office manager of the HUB Sports Center and tournament director of the Snowball Shoot-Out, which took place at the HUB last weekend. She said it’s the next big thing.

Futsal moves faster than soccer. It is played on a hardwood floor, rather than turf, and the ball is heavier.

Atwood said the ball has hardly any bounce to it.

Teams are made up of five people: four field players and one goalie.

In soccer, players can throw the ball into play, but in futsal, it must be kicked. There are two 20-minute halves and the clock doesn’t stop when the ball goes out of bounds. Only the goalie can use their hands.

Like soccer, it’s for girls and boys. During last weekend’s tournament, there were 18 teams with about 10 kids on the rosters for each team. In tournament play at the HUB, teams get to play at least four games.

The name futsal comes from the Portuguese for “hall football,” because it’s played indoors. At its highest level of play, FIFA and the World Futsal Association are its governing bodies.

Atwood said soccer coaches often encourage their players to join during the winter to help them focus on their foot skills.

“Futsal is the best thing compared to outdoor soccer you can get,” said Jason Bellefeuille, director of coaching-select for the Spokane Shadow.

He said the increased speed and the small spaces help the players focus on their passing accuracy. About 25 of his students play futsal regularly at the HUB, and many of them have other places to play.

It’s not just for kids. The HUB will have a tournament Jan. 26 for high school-age players, players younger than 30 and players older than 30. There are men’s, women’s and coed teams.

But last weekend was for the kids, who packed the HUB for a weekend of activity.

“The kids just seem to love it,” Atwood said.

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